Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre
The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand (OPC) is a New Zealand based not for profit trust with two centres in the North Island. Started in 1973, OPC has been delivering quality outdoor programmes to school age students for 40 years and has around 5000 students walk through the gates each year.
Contributing positively to the life journey of young people through adventure and rich outdoor learning experiences that develop care and respect for self, others and place, in the spirit of Sir Edmund Hillary.
It was the lost, hard urbane kids produced by the industrial midlands of the United kingdom who first planted the seed of the OPC idea in Graeme Dingle's brain. As a young outdoor instructor for the Birmingham Education Authority in the late 1960s Dingle saw kids alienated by a school system which did not work for them and lost in a society which did not challenge them. Bored and directionless, they channeled their frustrated energy into violence or grew unmotivated and hopeless. In Dingle's words:
- New Zealand kids were naive and unsophisticated by comparison, although most New Zealand children had at least been to the country and knew what cows were. Lots of those Birmingham kids had never seen a green field or a sea shore or been in a kayak...That sort of thing limits you as a human being. You think that poverty is normal. You think that not having aspirations for yourself is normal. You think that unhealthy behaviour of all kinds is normal. That is the ghetto mentality.
Dingle had not previously given much thought to the state of society, but he decided it would not be long before young New Zealanders headed down the same track as the knife-wielding 13-year-old skinheads of Birmingham. To his surprise, he felt responsible. His energetic mind got to work. He wrote to his old friend and mentor, Sir Edmund Hillary, asking what he thought of a mountain-based outdoor centre in the South Island. Hillary replied:
- As far as a mountaineering centre is concerned I have mixed feelings...I personally feel the greatest potential would be an 'adventure course' much closer to the centres of population in the North Island-say at Ruapehu-which can be easily reached by lots of people.
Hillary's advice stayed in the back of Dingle's mind, and in 1972 OPC was born. Dingle believed strongly that conventional schools were not the place where real learning took place. He and the early instructor overcame the challenges of skepticism from the educational system and being poorly funded. What motivated them was their total commitment to Graeme's philosophy which was based on four fundamental beliefs:
- The first benefit is an educational one. It is far better for a child to see the course of a stream or the formation of a volcano than to read about it in a book.
- Secondly, the children find out what it is like to live with a large group of people, to share their difficulties, help a tired friend and their share of necessary and unpleasant chores.
- Thirdly there is the question of the challenge and how to meet it. How often do people ever get to know their true physical and emotional limits? Added to this is my belief that children are not often asked to really use their initiative. Many of the activities at OPC require the kids to think and act for themselves. We are there to stand behind and watch them, and stop them getting into and real difficulty.
- The forth benefit is one of environment. We try to foster an understanding of the land and the effect we are having on it. We strive to make the children think, question and hopefully find their own solution.
Many in those early days eyed the 'outdoor pursuits centre' with suspicion, regarding the instructors as undisciplined hoons and hippies-which wasn't too far from the truth. But these 'hippies' believed totally in what they were doing and they struck a chord with the young people who came to the centre. Despite many lean times the centre flourished, developing into what is known today as The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand.
OPC Great Barrier
OPC Tongariro is situated adjacent to the Tongariro National Park in the Central Plateau of the North Island right on State Highway 47 halfway between National Park and Turangi. The centre itself is on Department of Conservation (DOC) land in the Tongariro Forest Park.
- Department of Conservation consent to operate http://www.doc.govt.nz/getting-involved/consultations/closed/sir-edmund-hillary-outdoor-pursuits-centre-trust-concession-notification/
- New Zealand Qualificationns Authority certification http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/providers/details.do?providerId=961925001
- Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre Environmental Award http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/23159/award-recognises-passion-rivers
- The Performance of Tertiary Education Providers http://www.tec.govt.nz/Reports/2009/The-Sir-Edmund-Hillary-Outdoor-Pursuits-Centre-of-New-Zealand.pdf
- University Course Information http://www.uniguru.co.in/studyabroad/newzealand-courses/opc-certificate-outdoor-adventure-skills-leadership-course-details/cseid/51721580/cid/142464/programs.html
- Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation http://www.thesiredmundhillaryfoundation.ca/Sir-Edmund-Hillary.30.0.html
- Graeme Dingle Founder of OPC - http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/Writers/Profiles/Dingle,%20Graeme
- South Island Get2Go coverage http://www.ch9.co.nz/node/15770